Elinor Smith VS Amelia Earhart by Theasa Tuohy

My Op-Ed Daily News, October 21st 2018

Only five of New York City's 150 statues of historical figures are of women. As the city looks to correct this egregious imbalance, it should look to a little-known teenage aviator named Elinor Smith.

Ninety years ago today, on a clear October day, Elinor, then 17 years old, took off from Roosevelt Field to wing her way into aviation history by flying under all four of Manhattan's East River bridges in an open-cockpit biplane.

It was an extraordinary feat, never done by man or woman before or since. The clearance at various points between bridge and water is as little as 200 feet.

Some four months earlier, Amelia Earhart had become famous for being the first woman to fly the Atlantic — but as a passenger.

That same year, Smith set two endurance records. For the second, she stayed in the sky for 26 hours, 21 minutes. Meanwhile, Earhart wrote a book about her passenger experience that became a bestseller.

Within two years, by age 19, Smith had set speed, endurance and altitude records and been named the best female pilot in the country. She worked as a test pilot for both Bellanca and Fairchild aircraft companies before she was 20.

But Earhart is the woman forever immortalized as the icon of female pilots. Why?

As always, it's our reverence for those with a superior marketing plan. We bow down to actors. We worship athletes. We vote by name recognition.

In 1929, the year women were first allowed to enter transcontinental air races, a year after Elinor Smith had proved her mettle by flying under the bridges, she could not even get sponsorship to enter what screen star and humorist Will Rogers had dubbed the Powder Puff Derby. Smith was being blocked at every career turn by Earhart's then-publisher and publicist, George Putnam, who had sought Earhart out for the specific purpose of writing a bestseller about the transatlantic flight and then became enamored of her.

Earhart and Putnam married two years later.

Earhart's serious biographers recount the consistent rumors that the "mechanics" who almost always flew with Earhart were, in fact, doing most of the flying. Smith, in her autobiography, "Aviatrix," said she was blackballed by Putnam when she turned down a "mechanic" offer.

Translation: Smith was too good and Putnam wanted her out of the way so she wouldn't cut into the cult of celebrity he was building up around Earhart.

The Powder Puff Derby entrants took off from Santa Monica for the nine-day race without Smith. In Cleveland, Earhart came in third after an embarrassingly poor and bouncy landing. She was in fourth place the day before until the pilot in third place, Ruth Nicholas, cracked up at the last stop in Columbus.

The following year, Smith was voted by her peers as best female pilot in the country.

She went on to quit flying to raise a family. But she picked it up in her later years. At age 89, she made a simulated shuttle landing for NASA, and the following year flew an experimental plane at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.

On the 90th anniversary of her bridge feat, let's celebrate Elinor Smith's lack of name recognition. Maybe let's even correct the record — by building a monument to her at the base of one of those spans.


Another Bad Day for Journalist by Theasa Tuohy

A war against the press? Today's news makes Trump's sound like small potatoes. Item: Saudi national columnist for The Washington Post goes missing in the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul. Turkish officials suspect he was murdered there. Item: An investigative reporter was raped, beaten and murdered in Eastern Bulgaria. No suspects. Item: The Asia news editor of the Financial Times had his Hong Kong visa yanked. The guess as to why? He presided over a press club meeting where a speaker was  pro-independence.

Memoir by Theasa Tuohy

Beautifully written and poignant essay, teaser for upcoming memoir by NY Times reporter Jeffrey Gentleman. "Love Africa." He talks about "a rapidly shrinking sliver of an opportunity to bring peace to Somalia" in 2006. "Mogadishu wasn't an abattoir. The killing had stopped, and the populace seemed indebted to the young men who had stopped it. They simply called them the Youth, but they used the Arabic word, al Shabaab." 

"In December that same year, the Pentagon helped the army of Ethiopia, Somalia's historic enemy, invade."  

[read article@NewYorkTimes]

Friends by Theasa Tuohy

from friendsofJenny.com.jpg

Check out the Friends of Jenny (FOJ) website. They are a non-profit organization bringing to life the significance of the Curtiss JN-4 Jenny biplane, a hundred years after it was conceived and test flown. Forever associated with barnstorming, the first mass produced World War I flight trainer also carried the first regularly scheduled. A true icon in the story of American aviation.


Movie by Theasa Tuohy

Check out movie trailer for the one hour PBS documentary “Jenny”, the story of Glenn Curtiss and his most famous airplane.

Finally by Theasa Tuohy

A plane carrying Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian and two other Americans released by Iran left Tehran en route to Europe on Sunday after the implementation of a landmark agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. But we’re hardly out of the woods. The French Reporters Sans Frontieres reported that at the end of 2015 there were 54 reporters held hostage around the world. The release of Rezaian would drop the number held down to 53. Not an easy biz to be in. 

[read article@washingtonpost.com]

Op Ed by Theasa Tuohy

The Washington Post has just published an Op Ed piece I wrote concerning the arbitrary choice of March 1965 as the start of the Vietnam War – when 3,500 Marines landed in Da Nang. We already had 23,000 so-called ‘advisers’ in Vietnam before that date. Until we acknowledge how the conflict really started, we can’t come to terms with the origins or our nation’s involvement. 

[read article@washingtonpost.com]

US military personnel in South Vietnam, August 1963 (AP Photo)   

US military personnel in South Vietnam, August 1963 (AP Photo)